Haiti hit the headlines last year when it was hit by yet another hurricane. Unreported World returns to the island to find that it's still in a state of emergency.
Locked in a vicious cycle of environmental disaster, hunger, poverty and reliance on international aid, it's perhaps the most extreme example of what is happening to many of the world's poorest countries.
Reporter Aidan Hartley and Producer Alex Nott begin their journey in the village of Baie D'Orange, where 26 children died of hunger after the most recent hurricane. The team is surrounded by starving children as a crowd waits for a United Nations helicopter to deliver food supplies that will keep them alive. But as they queue up for grain farmers tell Hartley they want help to rebuild their lives by growing food, rather than constantly relying on handouts.
From the air, the team can easily see the hardships faced by farmers. Huge gullies have formed over the island, as the rain washes away all the top soil until just limestone rock remains. Everywhere the team visits, the last patches of forest are being cut down to make charcoal, which most poor people use for cooking fuel. Haiti used to be at least 80% forested, but today it has less than one percent tree cover.
In one story that sums up Haiti's misery Hartley and Nott meet Irene, a young mother. She is chopping down trees to make charcoal to sell even though they are the only thing protecting the soil on her smallholding from being eroded by wind and floods. Irene explains that one of her children recently died of starvation, while she is so poor she was forced to give away two others to relatives who could better care for them. On many days Irene and her remaining six children go without food.
Many Haitians accuse the relief agencies of not assisting them to move on from crisis relief to development efforts to end poverty. But efforts to end poverty in Haiti, which once fed itself, are in reverse instead of progressing.
In the rice paddies of Artibonite farmers tell the team that whatever rice they grow these days cannot be easily sold. In the food markets of the capital Port au Prince, Unreported World finds that locally produced Haitian rice is twice as expensive as cheap American rice imports.
Globalisation's bitter result for Haiti is that not only is local food production inadequate due to erosion and population growth, but peasant farmers have little incentive to grow more because the USA now dominates the market.
The team moves on to the slum district of Cite Soleil in the Island's capital, Port-au-Prince. There are just 25 Haitian police officers to keep law and order amongst the 400,000 in the slum and UN peacekeepers have been deployed to end the chaos partly brought about by hunger as people fight over food.
The team travels to another village with a UN aid mission. Even though it's only 30km from the capital, they¿re forced to fly by helicopter as the roads are so bad. The UN says hungry mobs have pillaged similar flights and it's again clear that the country is chronically dependent on aid. It seems as if the entire village of farmers has turned up for the flight and nobody is working in the fields.
One man says that everybody is dependent on food aid and they do not want the United Nations to go. In fact, he tells Hartley, they are praying to God for the food aid to continue forever.
|Friday 10 April 2009||Channel 4|
|Friday 10 April 2009||7.30PM||Channel 4|